Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Season Nine, Week Five: Top Ten Performances

I just have to start with a question: where do the producers find the guest judges? Last year they had Debbie Reynolds, Kristin Chenoweth, Neil Patrick Harris, Megan Mullally, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, and other easily recognizable faces... this year we're getting obscure choreographers. I get last week's judges, because they are the focus of a spin-off show airing on Ovation network (A Chance to Dance, Fridays at 10:00... it's decent, you should check it out). And they had never seen the show before, so they were better equipped to give honest critiques of the redone Mia Michaels routines, since they had no frame of reference. But Benjamin Millepied (Natalie Portman's husband and baby daddy, as well as the choreographer/co-star of Black Swan) is strictly a ballet dancer... he's not going to draw in the audiences or give fun critiques the way someone like Cheno or NPH would. Just a slight gripe

Anyway, we're back to all stars! And this time they're actually people we like! Yay!

Group Performance (Choreographed by Tyce Diorio)

Well this was just fun and shamelessly cheesy. It reminded me a lot of something Rob Ashford would choreograph for Broadway, particularly because of the moments when the men were dancing on trashcan lids, a conceit he used in the stage version of Cry Baby. It was a happy, upbeat, campy routine, and everyone truly got into the spirit; it recalled the choreography of the splashy Golden Age musicals without being derivative. Maybe Tyce is onto something with that, because I rarely enjoy his pieces...

Tiffany and Brandon Bryant (Disco by Doriana Sanchez)

Finally, a friggin' disco number. Why do they keep waiting so long to introduce them lately? I have to start with a problem: the lighting. I couldn't see the first 30 seconds of the dance because of the extensive use of the mirrorball; it totally washed them out. Aside from that, I loved the choreography here. Tiffany did (mostly) a great job with some really difficult movement... and by movement, I mean lifts. I was curious why they brought Brandon back to dance a disco routine when he's such a beautiful contemporary dancer, but I got it after seeing how often Tiffany was in the air. It was a lot of fun, if a bit difficult to critique because of the lack of actual dancing; but I suppose the high energy and confidence Tiffany exuded is enough of a positive critique to give.

Witney and Nick Lazzarini (Jazz by Travis Wall)

First of all... NICK! YES! I love him, and I love Travis. ALL OF YOU NEED TO BE WATCHING THEIR SHOW ALL THE RIGHT MOVES, TUESDAYS AT 10:00 ON OXYGEN! It's great.

Anyhow, I digress. I wanted more from this routine. Travis fell into the trap of choreographing for the all star rather than the competitor. Nick got the best moments, the much more showy ones. Witney had more "performing" to do, rather than dancing, and she just didn't really stand up next to him. She was great, very committed, very sexy. But I feel like at this point, it needs to be about the dancing, and Witney just didn't have to dance all that much. I also struggled, in my own mind, reconciling this with Travis's usual style; this was detached from that, something almost entirely new and experimental. As choreography, I liked it. For Nick, I liked it. For Witney, not so much.

Cole and Anya Garnis (Cha Cha by Dmitry Chaplin)

I'm divided on this one. I was totally into it, until the music kicked in after the a cappella opening; those first counts of choreography were super awkward, and I was convinced Cole was just going to fall on top of Anya. It got better from there, though Cole was often overly stiff and poised and sometimes had some sloppy (ie: late) footwork. But he's one of the few dancers to perform with Anya and not look like a complete idiot, so there are some points in his favor right there.

Lindsay and Jakob Karr (Broadway by Spencer Liff)

Seriously, if Billy Bell had shown up then all of my favorite male dancers in the history of this show would've danced in one episode. Too much. And Jakob doing Spencer Liff's choreography?! Stop. I didn't give a damn what Lindsay was doing the first time I watched this, I was so engrossed by Jakob; I had to watch a second time to focus on her. I still didn't really care too much. Spencer's choreography was wonderful, and to see Jakob executing it was an experience. He's one of the cleanest dancers So You Think... has ever had, and having to live up to that isn't something Lindsay can do just yet. She did just fine, thanks in large part to the strength of the routine and her partner elevating her to a higher level. I will compliment her, though, on her synchronization with Jakob during the shadow portion at the start; it had me worried when the concept was explained, but she made it work with an excellent sense of musicality.

Will and Kathryn McCormick (Bollywood by Nakul Dev Mahajan)

I dislike Will more and more as the weeks go by. I don't think he's growing at all as a dancer or performer, and his facial expressions are bordering on Kent territory. I mean, clearly he's having fun up there, but he just looks ridiculous sometimes. The faces are adorable sometimes, but this is the second week in a row he was supposed to be seductive and just looked stupid. He wasn't hitting the snaps as hard as the style requires, and he was very obviously overcompensating by making faces. The routine itself was one of Nakul's strongest in recent memory; I just wished it had been danced by someone who would have done it a bit more justice.

Cyrus and Jaimie Goodwin (Contemporary by Travis Wall)

Apparently you didn't need me to tell you to watch Travis's new show, because Fox is doing it for you by parading out all of the cast members this week. Neither Jaimie nor Nick have been back in the previous two seasons as all stars, yet the week their show with Travis returns to Oxygen they're dancing in routines he's choreographed? Hmm. I have the same critique for this as I did for Nick's piece: Travis choreographed for the all star (and, in each circumstance, his friend) rather than the competitor. This showed how much Cyrus has grown over the course of the show, but it didn't show him off as a dancer. He still has the ugliest feet in the competition (and that's saying something when Dareian was on the show), and he's still a pretty weak actor, but he's growing and that's something. It was a solid routine from Travis, if a bit female-heavy, and I actually enjoyed watching Cyrus this week.

Chehon and Lauren Gottlieb (Hip Hop by Dave Scott)

First of all: epic costume fail. So ugly. Also: choreography fail. So ugly. And: dancer fail from Chehon. So ugly. This is exactly how you'd picture a ballet dancer doing hip hop: awkward, stiff, soulless, nonrhythmic, and very white. To be fair, I hate this smooth hip hop crap and always have. Very few dancers on this show have ever done it successfully, and Chehon is not one of them. This felt really strange, especially from a choreographer like Dave Scott, who has done such memorable hard-hitting routines in the past (the distant past, he hasn't been consistent in his recent appearances from season 6-now). And I just didn't like it... at all.

George and Allison Holker (Jazz by Tyce Diorio)

Okay, so to start out with... I'm pretty sure a train in Paris wouldn't say "Railroad Crossing." It would say something in French. Also, the weird 60s mod music was kind of off-putting. The dance itself started off pretty standard, if not a bit reminiscent of one of the worst routines to ever grace this stage (Tyce's flight attendant piece from last season), but then it just got confusing somewhere around George pretending to stab himself with a cane and die. Then it was head-scratching chaos. The choreography became frantic, the performances became caricatures, and the concept became totally lost. I mean, I think they danced it fine, and George obviously has good technique, but GOOD GOD I wouldn't believe for a second that he's attracted to Allison (or any female, for that matter). And I hated the choreography... did I mention that?

Eliana and Alex Wong (Contemporary by Stacey Tookey)

I'm glad Eliana finally got to dance in a style close to her own, because she's so much stronger doing her thing than trying to adapt. The movement was beautiful and well-executed, if not entirely unique. Alex is such a phenomenal dancer, and there's no question in my mind that he would have won season seven if it weren't for an injury. So seeing him dance with Eliana elevated it further, and it was a gorgeous sight to see. The more I think about it, these choreographers don't have to keep reinventing the wheel as long as they're doing visually interesting things and getting performers who know how to interpret their visions. This is a prime example of that: nearly perfect execution that would not have been anywhere near as effective in the hands of two lesser dancers.

Audrey and Twitch (Hip Hop by Dave Scott)

Ok, I still don't and probably never will understand the appeal of Twitch. I get that he's a full-out performer and he's totally perfect for Dave Scott's style, but I just don't like the way he dances. And even saying that, I still liked him better than Audrey. She was too cutesy for me, though she handled the choreography well. Speaking of which, this is the Dave Scott that hasn't been present for years; this routine was reminiscent of his work in season four with Joshua and Courtney, but it was still fun to watch. I don't think I'll remember it tomorrow, but it didn't suck.

Bottom Four: Witney, Audrey, Chehon, George

I don't understand how George ended up in the bottom and not Tiffany, but I guess America is just as turned off by his pedo-stache as I am. So it was finally time to say goodbye to him.

Witney has been an all-around stronger dancer and personality than Audrey, so I'm not at all surprised to see her go.

My Bottom Four


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